MSA Chorale makes trip of lifetime

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 10, 2006

It was the trip of a lifetime for 26 students of the MississippiSchool of the Arts Chorale earlier this week when they traveled toNew York to perform at the historical Carnegie Hall.

“It’s a very important hall. All the great musicians of thefirst half of the century have played there. You knew you hadarrived when you had done that,” said Patton Rice, director of theMSA Chorale.

It took the donations of individuals, businesses and churchesstatewide to raise the approximately $56,000 to fund the trip, Ricesaid. The choir performed many benefit concerts at churches acrossthe state and asked for love offerings to supplement otherdonations to raise the money.

“We had some terrific donations from the community,” Rice said.”There are too many people to thank to name them all.”

The choir was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall by Dr. JamesM. Meadors, chair of Mississippi College’s Department of Music.Meadors had been invited to conduct and was given the latitude tochoose the choir he wanted to perform with. In addition to his ownMississippi College Singers and Jackson Choral Society, Meadorschose the MSA Chorale, the Cocoa Beach Singers, of Coacoa Beach,Fla., the Lindsey Wilson College Singers of Columbia, Ken., and theSt. Andrew United Methodist Church Chancel Choir of Plano, Texas.The choirs were accompanied by the New England SymphonicEnsemble.

The MSA Chorale was the only high school-age singers among themore than 200 participants of the mass choir.

Meadors had rehearsed with the MSA Chorale in Raymond last yearafter their first concert at the Mississippi Alliance of ArtsEducators annual meeting and honored them with a short workshop,Rice said.

“He thought MSA had a mature sound for a high school choir,”Rice said.

The MSA choir director said the trip to Carnegie Hall was anexperience the students will cherish for the rest of theirlives.

“Singing at a venue like that was a once-in-a-lifetime thingwhich they’ll never forget,” Rice said. “They have studied many ofthe people who have performed there.”

Many of the students never returned to the MSA following SpringBreak. Instead, they met at the airport on April 1 for the flightto New York.

“It was the first time to fly for many of them,” Rice said.”That was interesting.”

The days leading up to the Tuesday night performance were packedwith practices and rehearsals, but that did not mean the studentsdidn’t find time to explore a small slice of the Big Apple, Ricesaid. The 12 chaperones, composed of parents and faculty, took thestudents in small groups to various Broadway shows and on tours ofthe Empire State Building, ground zero of the World Trade Centercollapse and various other sites of interest.

The students also had the opportunity to meet with Teri Hansonand Neil Farrell, two professionals of the New York musical scene,Rice said.

“They spoke with the kids about a career in music from apersonal perspective,” he said.

Soprano Teri Hanson sings concerts with orchestras and has hadstarring roles on several Broadway shows, including “Boys FromSyracuse” by Rogers and Hart. Tenor Neil Farrell is a soloist,composer and arranger for seven different professional choirs inNew York.

The students returned from their trip late Wednesday night for ashort stay. Nineteen of the students competed this weekend inCleveland, Miss., at the National Association of Teachers andSingers competition. Last year, the MSA Chorale won eight of 11finalist spots and swept first place in all three categories at thecompetition.